Thursday, December 24, 2009

Sweet Memories

My oldest is 16 on December 23 this year. A milestone for us both. I am enjoying memories of her newborn days and all the days between. It is amazing how with each new developmental step, I have cheered her on, and how each step moves her toward who she is becoming. She walked young and talked young and has always been very discriminating. Funny to see how those qualities manifest in her personality now. I remember being thrilled as she pulled her self up and started toddling around, and then horrified as she started to run away from me at 9 months! Now she is a lovely young woman, cultivating who she is and stepping more and more into the world. I certainly have not always done everything right in the raising of my first, but I think she is turning out to be a wonderful person regardless. I so enjoy spending time with my dear daughter and feel grateful for every moment.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Still seeking the Light

High in the sky
the big round moon
gave a light so bright
shining down on the night.

Far down on the ground
small creatures looked around
amazed at the light so bright.

They all found their warm beds
and kissed each others heads,
feeling snug as a hug,
beneath the shine of the light,
all through the night.

I long to give my children the gift of hope for the future. So much talk and news these days about how we are bringing our earth to the brink of disaster, how the Mayan calendar ends and so will the world. This is scary stuff. My adolescents grab onto it and use it to feed their need to be hard edged and my younger one just keeps his eyes wide open.

This week Rowan encountered an adult who went a bit off the deep end with fear about the earth and nature and the role of humans in it all. I was not present when it happened so I could only question and support after the fact. This morning I told him the story of "The Burden Bull of Scotland" by Reg Down, borrowed with thanks from her website offering of free stories. This sweet story of a kind bull who shelters a young child and then brings a Christmas miracle to a starving village helped, I think, to share with Rowan yet another example of how the earth does provide and how hope is possible even in dark times. I also wrote the poem above (with the dual purpose of helping Rowan with his "ight" and "ou" sounds and to help foster a sense of safe protection in nature). I will try to take up more of this theme when we resume our formal studies after the new year.

Now we enter vacation proper! The big kids are out of school, packages and cards have been sent off, all we need to do now is enjoy our warm home and fun family. Ahhh.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Finding Light in the Darkness

The weather here in Santa Cruz is cooperating amazingly well with my lesson plans. We have moved from very cold days to dark wet days. How easy it has been to work with Rowan on the themes of Winter, Advent and Hanukkah.

I was not certain at first how to include the story of Hanukkah into our lessons. It is not an Old Testament Story and it is not something our family usually celebrates. I always have a hard time teaching things that I am not connected with and I worried that this was going to happen with Hanukkah. Books to the rescue! I found a lovely book by Erica Jayasuriya called Traditions. In the book I found wonderful prayers and verses and many stories to choose from to make Hanukkah come alive for us in our school day. I decided to tell the story of Deborah, Woman of Flames. I kept the story simple and was able to weave the bigger story of Hanukkah into the smaller story of Deborah who is seeking her true calling in service to God and finds it as a weaver of candle wicks.

We moved from the story into painting on Monday, filling our page with deep dark blue and then pulling the light of a menorah from the darkness using the lifting off technique. This was challenging for Rowan and he kept saying that it was hard, but he persisted and the painting worked well. I was most pleased with the mood that we were able to create, it really felt like we were honoring the human need to bring light into this time of year.

Our house can sometimes feel mired in darkness with the heavy adolescent influence it holds. Although I think my own two teenagers are questioning the world in a totally healthy and normal way, I worry that Rowan will have too much cynicism too soon. In taking the time to light our advent candles, sit together for our family meals and honor our own family traditions like gingerbread house making and finding the perfect Christmas tree, I hope to help all my children, especially the teenagers, hold onto the beauty and light that is inside of them.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Jack Frost Was In My Garden

Well the cold is really here. Frost covered the garden this morning and our homeschooling took place alternately near the woodstove and the kitchen oven. It was fun to pull out the Jack Frost verses and a new North Wind poem (Wynstones).

The north wind came along one day,
So strong and full of fun;
He called the leaves down from the trees
And said, "Run, children, run!",
They came in red and yellow dress,
In shaded green and brown,
And all the short November day He chased them round the town.
They ran in crowds, they ran alone,
They hid behind the trees,
The north wind laughing found thm there
And called,"No stopping, please."
But when he saw them tired out
And huddled in a heap,
He softly said, "Goodnight my dears,
Now let us go to sleep."

In an effort to keep with the theme of the second week of advent (Plants) and hold onto Rowan's enthusiasm for fairy tales, I chose The Turnip (Grimms) for our story on Monday and then"told the Russian variation today. In the Grimm's story, a soldier turns farmer, grows a huge turnip and gives it to the king. In the Russian story, a farmer grows a very large turnip and needs his whole family (and dog and cat and mouse) to help him pull it up. These "chain" type stories with repeated lines that go all the way out and then back in again seem to help children developmentally. I noticed it all the time when my older son was still homeschooling. With Rowan I sense that it helps him put order into his own world.

To keep with the theme of order, I am bringing in some form drawing this week as well. We did some mirror forms yesterday that also had a plant-like theme. Today I offered some transformations that also included containment. I feel like Rowan still needs to feel secure in himself and I always like to imaging drawing a protective field around him during these times. Today I had him create a lovely blue form containing a golden crossed lemniscate.

Gingerbread house making is an annual tradition in our house, even if I don't really feel like doing it. I always give in to the wonderful smell of baking gingerbread. We are now just in the cutting and baking part of the process. Tomorrow will be house construction and maybe decoration, but that may need to wait one more day. Acacia (15) proclaimed that no decorating can take place without her.

Whenever I have a little moment I am feverishly working on the little farm animal set I plan to give as a gift to one of my darling nieces this year at Christmas.
The shipping deadline looms so I must return to the needle and thread presently.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Giveaway Winners

I ended up holding two drawings for the prize (so two hummingbirds will fly out). One drawing was for everyone who sent a comment. It was so much fun to read through them and to visit so many amazing blogs in the process! Thanks to everyone, really. The winner of the first drawing is:


I decided to hold a second drawing just for those who guessed correctly at the type of hummingbird I was going for in my design. The answer: Anna's hummingbird. We have many of these type in our garden and I love watching them zip around and argue with each other over the best flowers! The one in the photo is the male variety. The winner of the second drawing is:


Congratulations to you both! For everyone else, I hope you entered other giveaways and won something somewhere! I will also offer a 50% discount to of you who really wants a hummingbird (or another bird) from my Etsy shop (Henny Pennys Jumble) from now until January 1. Just mention that you entered my giveaway when you order.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sweet Moments

If you are looking for My Giveaway, check out the December 2 post! I will pick a random winner at midnight (PST).

This week has been a flurry of fun activity and I have been so pleased to find even my teenagers engaging in holiday craftiness! My daughter actually brought a friend home and dipped candles! It turns out that some of her friends think its cool that I am so domestic and so she is grudgingly giving me a small bit of credit this week.

Rowan had a violin recital this morning and, whew! He practiced with more vigor than I expected and it really paid off. I am so pleased for him. He is the only one of my three still playing and I hope he can keep the inspiration a few more years at least.

Soon we are off to an Advent Walk on this very cold (for Santa Cruz, anyway) December evening.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


Now I walk in beauty,
Beauty is before me,
Beauty is behind me,
Beauty's all around me,
Above and below me.

This is the song that has begun our homeschool mornings this week and last. One story I told was, "Little Dawn Boy and the Rainbow Trail", a Navaho tale. I found it on the Online Waldorf Library, submitted by JoAnne Dennee. Another story was a coyote tale, "The Sky Is Falling". Our watercolor painting followed the theme from that story. We also had a table puppet performance of "The Frog Prince". It is funny that I have been preparing for this for several weeks now and in the meantime have completely misplaced the princess and prince dolls I made for the telling. I did have the frog, the crown and the golden ball. We used an elf doll for the prince (the one in the photo in the previous post) and an antique from my grandmother's doll collection for the princess. Rowan set up the house scene (he loves to decorate) and moved props around while I told the tale.

It felt so good to be telling a fairytale again. I have done it a few times over the past several months. As my youngest gets older, I find that our story times have become slightly less magical. Rowan's mind wants to grab onto some of the things I tell in our recent stories and discuss them. I see this as healthy and natural and good, but it brings us out of the dreamy story place and engages our thinking capacities much more. As I told the fairy tale, I could feel the softness enter Rowan and myself. Here is opening and closing verse:

Mother of the fairy tale,
Take us by your shining hand,
Lead us gently up beyond,
To where was it, where was it not?
To when was it, when was it not?

I tried for this same quality with the "Little Dawn Boy" tale and it was there, I think because of the songs that puncutate the story. For Rowan's main lesson book, I had him focus on beautiful drawings, carefully written poems and completing stories he had left unfinished. Rowan had to complete a writing assignment for the homeschool charter group we belong to. He had to write a three-paragraph persuasive essay on this topic: "Your parents tell you that your family is planning to move. Where do you want to move and why?". The point is to practice the whole Intro, Body, Conclusion model for paper writing. I felt resistant at first, but decided to give it a go. Rowan's response was what I expected: "I don't want to move anywhere." He had very little trouble with the assignment. He sat down and in one sitting cranked out the needed paragraphs in a very sensible way. All of his spelling errors were phonetically correct. I was pleased. His reading still seems slow, but he is making steady progress. We read one chapter each day from a book by Reg Down, "The Tales of Tiptoes Lightly". I think the reading level is maybe high third grade or fourth grade, but it is a good challenge for Rowan and the story engages his interest.

Clearly I have much time for this post. Today is Thursday, the one day I have to myself all week! I try to luxuriate in the time as much as possible. I need to sign off now and go luxuriate somewhere else (like in front of the fire).

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sharing what I make - a giveaway

I am excited to participate in the Great Handmade Giveaway project hosted by sewmamasew. If you would like to win this hummingbird ornament, comment here and tell me what kind of hummingbird you think it is(you don't have to be right to win). On December 6 I will select a winner and ship it to you for free (in the U.S.)! If you want to check out the link to the bigger giveaway contest, please do:

As Rowan and I work away at school and fun and craftiness, I have also been working away (on the side) making little creatures for gifts and also to sell in my Etsy shop. This work has lead me to come up with fun new ways to present some old stories (bring back the fairytales!) and delve into the beauty of nature (I just love wild birds). Here are some of my creations:

Little Elf

Norther Flicker


Rhode Island Red Rooster and Hen Pair

Slowly but surely I am filling up a little Etsy shop called Henny Pennys Jumble. Clearly we like hens around here and are big fans of Beatrix Potter. Last year when I had a sixth grader still at home as well as my second grader we had some fun with Ginger and Pickles Economics and decided to make a shop. From that, our Etsy shop was born.

Winter Comes To Santa Cruz

I feel so blessed to live in a mild climate. We get warm sunny days and weeks every month of the year. But I love it when we get something close to real seasonal weather once in a while, just for the effect on our mood! This year, the weather has been cooperating with my schedule of activities so nicely. Today we have a fire in the wood stove and are feeling very crafty. Our family found the perfect tree at a local Christmas Tree farm last Sunday and I was so happy to hear even my teenagers proclaim what a nice tree we have this year! Our first Sunday of Advent was easygoing and perfect! That doesn't always happen, I am thankful that it did this year.
My family with our perfect tree

Cutting down the tree

Rowan working on the wreath

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Of Course We are Feeling Thankful

We have had a very sweet week in life and in homeschooling. With Thanksgiving on our minds I wanted to try to pull us in toward our hearth and then Rowan got a fever! What better way is there to focus us in on being home, on being grateful for small blessings, on taking it easy and being gentle? While we nursed Rowan's illness, I found some very nice Native American tales and was able to bring us easily from the animal stories we had been working with into the human realm. We also felt like working with beeswax and I was lucky enough to stumble upon the blog Mountain Pulse with a very fine description of a great game of Native American dice. We made the dice out of walnut shells and melted beeswax and then, once Rowan felt better and we had a warm sunny day, we went to the beach and found some perfect driftwood sticks for the final part of the project.

As Thanksgiving came closer we decided to bake! Pumpkin pie, of course, but also an apple tart and a pear-walnut tart were on the menu. Pumpkin pie from scratch is great fun to make. It is also a bit of a science lesson the way you combine all these wet things and get a yummy solid pie in the end!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Jumping Mouse and Magic Frog

This week we had fun with some Native American animal stories. One fun story was about Jumping Mouse and Magic Frog. Jumping Mouse must go through many trials and find both courage and compassion on his journey to find the far-off land. I felt inspired to work with my general felt animal pattern a little bit and came up with a nice little felt mouse. Here is how I did it.

Felt Mouse How To

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Frog Prince

This week I was drawn to study the fairytale The Frog Prince for myself. Even though, with the third grade curriculum, we are not really "doing" fairytales anymore, I still find them very satisfying to read and study. In looking again at The Frog Prince, I came away with a much deeper interpretation of the story than I had when I first told the story to Rowan back in kindergarten.

It seems to be a perfect story of the nine year change, and any time of change, for that matter. The princess has this golden ball (gold is always symbolic of the higher spiritual power, right). She takes the ball out of the garden and into the woods throwing the ball higher and higher (here she is pushing the boundaries, going further than she perhaps should). She loses the ball in the spring and cannot get it out herself. She must rely on the help of a frog (who is ugly and represents change in the form of metamorphosis). She makes a promise but quickly tries to forget it. But change keeps knocking at the door. The king (representing the truth) insists that she face her fate. She resists (here we have that magic number three, letting the transformation meet her at all three levels: thinking, feeling willing) but ultimately she faces the change by fulfilling her promise to let the frog sit next to her and eat from her plate and sleep on her bed. In the end, of course, she is rewarded with the transformation of the frog into a prince (representing the bright future). I don't see this just as the girl getting the guy, but more like all the characters are within the being of the main character (or even the one hearing or reading the story). In a way, the essence of the golden ball is transferred to the Prince in his transformation. I think perhaps I am getting a little bit out there, but it all fits together well in my mind and that helps me get into telling the story.

So I have not yet told the story to Rowan this week. I have been making character dolls (it all started with me wanting to make a frog out of felt) and showing them to him for advice. I am waiting until I have all the dolls finished just right to put on a little performance with him. It does seem to me that just in my contemplating the story and its possible meanings, there has been an effect on Rowan's ability to meet his current challenges. Perhaps this is just my perception, perhaps there really is magic in fairytales.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Autumn Monday

I love Mondays and home schooling. Every Monday is a new beginning. Monday contains the most uninterrupted schooling hours in the week in our house. We always paint on Mondays and start on new stories, poems and songs. Often, I even have time to bake on Mondays. Today has been another fabulous Monday!

Today I began a new block, one focused on Animal tales and Native American stories. I plan to focus in on language arts - reading, writing, spelling, grammar. We had a Squirrel poem and an Autumn animal story both from the Wynstones Autumn book. As Rowan grapples with his 9 year change I sense a need in him to feel protected, sheltered, well-clothed. I would like to meditate on a sense of nourishing hibernation as we move into the winter days. We will study animal homes, habits and habitats and hear stories of animal characters. I think that for Rowan, he will be comforted to leave the somewhat heavy Old Testament themes for a while and go a little back to something familiar. We experienced many animal stories in the 2nd grade blocks. Now in 3rd grade, I would like to take those familiar animal characters and allow them to be the material for a more serious effort at composition, both written and artistic. Painting and drawing animals requires a new level of attention and technique and will challenge Rowan to stay focused. Handwork is always fun in the colder days, and gifts are good to make at this time of year. My skills lie mostly in fiber arts, so that is what Rowan gets more than woodwork. Oh well, you can't do everything.

Today in math, I took some time to review some well known shape names and learn a few new ones. Square, Rectangle, Triangle and Circle are all easy ones. New ones included the parallelogram, trapezoid and hexagon. This was a very low-key conversation with manipulatives and drawing. It was a good opportunity to practice observation skills and descriptinve language.

Friday, October 30, 2009


Well weeks have gone by without a post. I knew that would happen. Homeschooling has a way of pulling me into a vortex that is very creative, but allows little time for documentation.

In these past weeks, we finished the story of creation and bound a beautiful book of painting, drawings and writings. We continued on for some time with Old Testament Stories, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah and the Ark and the Tower of Babel. I need to take some time to write about all of that in more detail, but the most exciting thing going on right now is Halloween!

This week has been devoted entirely to Halloween. Rowan loves to decorate and we came up with some great ideas for a little party that will take place here tonight! Of course, I threw in a little learning here and there. We learned Halloween tunes for the violin, wrote out labels for potions and signs for the spooky walk. We drew and walked spirals, then created spider web forms in many places, finally hanging up a rope spider web and creating a creepy spider kingdom in a burnt out redwood stump in the yard. We also did some baking - full of measuring and technique. We made cookies in the shapes of pumpkins, bats and autumn leaves and we made doughnuts from scratch. Tonight we will hand fresh made donuts from a tree and have a "doughnut bobbing" contest.

Rowan very much wanted to create a graveyard in our yard and hang up skeletons and ghosts. He sees this sort of decoration all around town. We recently spent some time in Southern California, visiting the mausoleum where my recently deceased grandmothers ashes rest. That was certainly a good opportunity to discuss death and burial with my kids. It was an odd experience in many ways, but healthy, I think. Earlier this year, we lost a dear old pet and we held a beautiful and sad funeral in our garden. Now, when Rowan wanted to create a "spooky" graveyard, I felt compelled to take a little time to talk about the sacredness of death and the memory of those we love. We created markers for pets and wild animals (mostly birds that hit our window) that we have known. With Rowan right in the midst of his "nine year change", I felt it was a ripe moment to take with him and speak openly about loss, death, the spirit and the body.

Paper mache was a big part of our decorating this year. Trying to save money, not spending it on overpriced, low-quality junk from the party store, we came up with creative ideas for making giant toadstools, ghosts, bones and costume pieces. We did these things in paper mache, clay and cloth. I even slipped in a little fiber arts, having Rowan needlefelt green stems and leaves onto little wool balls to use as pumpkins in our fairy house display.

It is such a pleasure to work with Rowan on all of this. He is so enthusiastic and innocent. He is nine this year and I know that he will begin to change rapidly in the coming years. This is most likely the last time we will throw this kind of "magical" kid-focused party. I am trying to savor it as much as I can. At the same time I get exasperated with some of Rowan's behavior. Nine year old boys are full of some sort of mischeivious juice that jangles my nerves sometimes. I find myself chanting "Patience" to myself several times each day. I definitely feel that I am most able to do this when I have things in balance, not too much to do, minimal distraction. Unfortunately, this is not always possible to orchestrate.

Off to create a little more magic and try to have fun!

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Week Three

Last week was week three for us with third grade. It feels slow to do one day of creation each day, but this slowness also gives each thought a grand weight that seems appropriate to the topic. We are learning the stories, painting, working with clay and writing parts of the story in cursive. To help with the cursive, we are doing lots of form drawing. The wonderful thing about working with the Old Testament creation stories is that it gives me a chance to delve into the archetypes that lie within each day of creation and try to bring the essence of the archetype in a way that meets Rowan in his imagination.

In the nature journal, Rowan is grasping the details of writing the full date and is developing the habit of checking the temperature each morning. We found a bee hive box on craig's list and are now learning about bees. The idea is to get bees in the spring and to spend time now learning about them. We have two books out from the library, one all about honeybees and another that is an easy reader about the bumblebee. This second book is helping Rowan to work on his reading fluency. Something in this book also led us to stop and focus on b d reversals, with lots of made up stories using the letter b. The nature journal has also become a place for Rowan to work on writing his own ideas and learning about proper paragraph construction.

Math has been easy and this is giving Rowan confidence. We are working to increase recall speed with some timed tests. Word problems are still time consuming, but once Rowan gets through the reading part, he can usually gather the information needed to solve the problems.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Week Two

It rained a little on Sunday and Monday and so our poem included the rain (The silver rain, the shining sun, the fields where scarlet poppies run...). After saying it together for a couple of days, Rowan had it memorized and I had him write it into his Garden and Nature Journal along with the date and temperature each day.

We began form drawing by moving forms (with our arms, feet, fingers in the air) and later drawing them. This warmed Rowan up to start cursive. He has really taken to cursive writing. He enjoys it and asks for more. I found a nice verse to say to get us ready to start our forms at. It starts out "Dip, dip, dip, my blue ship".

For our stories this week I began with a story of Lucifer and Michael. It worked well to move from the Native American creation stories last week with their dream-like quality into a story about a battle between angels. I felt that it was right to premise the Old Testament creation story with the idea that creation and destruction are both needed for balance in the universe. Lucifer falls from grace, but he is not eliminated altogether. This story introduces archetypes that will return again and again in other cultural tales and in modern literature as well.

Over the following two days we reviewed the Lucifer story and Rowan began writing a synopsis and I added to it with the first and second days of creation. Smaller pieces of writing came from those two days. We did paint each of these three scenes with wet-on-wet watercolors, one painting each day.

Our big field trip this week was to the county fair. Rowan had a couple of things entered and so it was great fun to show up and find out if his entries won (they did - one first place and one second place ribbon). We spent more time than ever before looking at all the entries in many categories (collections, photos, paintings, sculpture, vegetables, crafts, and, of course, legos). We ate a mediocre lunch and later had some delicious ice cream. On the way out we were sure to pick up some kettle corn, some saltwater taffy and some fudge to bring home and share. We did visit the petting animal barn and one larger barn with goats and cows, but everyone pooped out before we got to the pigs or the poultry. This was a sacrifice for me because I have a real fondness for chickens and I love to see the little bantam roosters crow!

Math right now is coming right out of the Saxon Homeschool Curriculum. Rowan is still working so much with reading that it is good to have easy math concepts for him to review while he struggles with reading the instructions on the worksheets. The math is also having him review the days of the week and months of the year, giving him lots of practice with writing the date and spelling those words. So far this year we have reviewed number patterns (counting by 10's and 100's forward and back), adding on 1 and 0, chart and graph formatting and reading and measurement in inches of both straight lines and rectangles. I am pleasantly surprised to find that Rowan's slow but steady progress with the violin (both playing and learning to read music) is helping him with math.

Finally after a full and fun week, we had our Friday group. This is a wonderful group of homeschool families each with one, two or three children, mixed ages who get together every friday for art projects, festival celebrations and play productions. This past week we celebrated Rosh Hashanah with a story, a trip to the creek with breadcrumbs in our pockets and a snack of apples and honey. This group is always a highlight of the week for everyone who is a part of it.

And so now I go off to prepare for week three.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What is learning anyway?

We had such an interesting day today. The first part started with oversleeping, but that was ok, because no one ended up being truly late for anything (my older two kids go to school and my husband has to go to work sometimes). Rowan and I had a nice, but short homeschooling session, reviewing our recent stories, doing some writing, reading and math work together. We also looked at photos from our summer trip to India. Rowan was very excited to show these photos to our Educational Specialist who was scheduled to arrive mid-morning. We are enrolled in a charter program designed for homeschool families and the technical start date of the school year contained our trip to India. We were preparing material to show some of the amazing things that were learned on the trip.

Now for the strange part. Our Educational Specialist (ES) arrives and immediately sets Rowan up on the computer to take a scantron test designed (so they say) to show how much he "knows"). Rowan is a slow reader and still feels most comfortable if he can read side by side with someone and ask for help with any tricky words. He has not done much academic work on the computer and has done very few activities that involve multiple choice answers. In other words, we are working with the Waldorf method! Rowan learns by doing things in the real world. Anyway, while Rowan plods along on the computer with no help, I sit in this meeting and show all the great stuff we have prepared. Turns out that next to none of it can be used because things learned outside the US don't count! So when Rowan learned that he could ask a guy in a small village to take a fresh coconut and chop it open for him and give him a straw to dring the milk and pay only 13 rupees for it and that 13 rupees is equal to 26 cents in the US, that is not math. When Rowan figured out how to play Monopoly and Sorry with kids from India, France, Britian and Italy, that did not count as learning. When Rowan learned all about the traditional way that people catch fish with intricate nets, wooden boats, levers and pulleys, that does not count for social studies. As you can see, I was very annoyed. Rowan finished his dull computer test, having guessed at most of the questions (his scores will probably show him as a kid who is way below average) and the ES said that next time she hopes she can talk to Rowan about the things he is learning in homeschooling. I felt that we had just wasted an hour of valuable homeschooling time.

Ah, but we did recover from that awful experience. We went on a little field trip as part of our farming and gardening block. I have a friend who has a cow. A single, spoiled cow who provides fresh milk for the family that owns her. She lives in a little suburban plot with plenty of room and a beautiful sprawling garden all around her. Rowan insisted that it was a mini-farm and he so wishes that we could have one too. We fed the cow pumpkins and apples and tasted apples and cheese made from the cow's milk. It was a fabulous visit. Rowan took in so much and learned so much, although none of it will translate into better performance on any multiple choice test. But I don't care, it was great!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Farming and Gardening Time

Today homeschooling went well. We had a nice review of our story of Sky Woman and we admired how well our watercolor paintings from yesterday turned out. Rowan spent some time writing down part of the story to go along with the painting. It is a goal of mine to have Rowan be able to write longer pieces more quickly. I do think cursive will help with that but for now he is still working in print.

Days of the week in English, Spanish and French made for a bit of fun, followed by some math work that involved calculating in weeks. The Saxon math curriculum I am using with Rowan seems a bit too easy right now, but I like the look of the incremental approach and I know things will get more challenging soon enough. Making garden and weather observations is a sweet time together as the autumn sun warms us. Violin lessons take us away from home in the middle of our schooling time, but it is well worth it. I find that much of the music work assists Rowan in his other subjects. Learning to read music and work on reading and playing at the same time has helped his out loud story reading gain some more fluency.

Tomorrow we get to meet a cow!

Monday, September 7, 2009

First Day of Third Grade

Ok, so I figured out what to do with the first day. Rather than begin with the Old Testament Creation, I told a Native American creation story. It was the story of Sky Woman who fell through a hole in the sky into the watery world below and was caught by two swans and lowered onto turtle's back. It had some similar elements to the Old Testament Story (first all was darkness, then came light, land formed and waters were separated, things began to grow, new animals and people came to this new earth world). I found that this story (and other Native American creation and flood stories that I will also tell) had a similar element to stories we worked with in 2nd grade (animal tales and fables) and will allow me to flow naturally into the Old Testament stories a little later on.

We began our school day as we always do with a verse and some movement to wake us up. Next we discussed what third grade will be like and how it will be similar to second grade in some ways but also different and a bit more difficult. Violin practice came next (I like to take care of this during our school time - otherwise I sometimes forget!). At the end of this little period, I told our story for the day and then we put out the candle and took a short break. Next we did some written work, some mental math and a calendar to review (days of the week, months of the year, how to write the date). I also introduced the Garden and Nature Journal and asked Rowan to write the date and the temperature on the first page. After another short break we had our Monday painting time, painting an image from our story. Later we will work with reading from an easy reader about a farm and math practice before we head off to play with friends.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Night Before Night Before

Getting ready to start teaching third grade. We will start on Monday. I know, Monday is Labor Day, but we have had such a relaxing summer I don't see why we need to wait one more day before beginning. Short weeks are always awkward, I like to begin on a Monday.

Following the Waldorf curriculum, I thought I would begin with Creation. This is third grade and that is what the guides all say to start with. Then I started really reading the first few Old Testament stories. Now I find I cannot get a handle on how to present any of it in a way that resonates within myself. I have taught fourth, fifth and sixth grade at home and never had any trouble with creation mythologies before. Somehow there was always a deep archetypal feeling in the stories, a sense of divine light filling the darkness within. But the Old Testament presents the story in such a way that I feel God as this guy playing with a felt story board, sticking the sun in the sky. And how is it that everyone came from Adam and Eve? And then there is the flood and only two of each creature was saved? We all know that incest does not produce the strongest of stock. I cannot yet get a handle on how to bring the image of God as the divinity in us all through these stories.

We will also start with farming and gardening, because we live in a great place for a fall garden. This is a subject I can truly get a handle on. This way we can do science with weather and soil and grains and bees. I have wanted to keep bees in the garden for years and it seems that the time is right, for me, for our curriculum and for our environment. The county fair will be here next week and we will visit farms to pick fruit and go to harvest festivals to listen to music and eat roasted corn and pick pumpkins.

So, the cursive letters are up, the main lesson books are prepared and now we have Sunday to polish the furniture and floors and then we will have the first day of school. I just need to reconcile my relationship to the Bible and I will be truly ready.